What is Binge Eating?
Binge eating is characterized by eating a significantly greater proportion of food in a particular time period than the average person might eat. Binge eating is also accompanied by a strong feeling of compulsion and lack of control over the binge eating. When binge eating, people may also eat in secret or eat much quicker than usual.
People often say, “I feel like I can’t stop eating.” What makes it more difficult is when it is accompanied by a well-meaning, yet critical voice saying, “you should not eat that”, “you’re disgusting”, or other shaming thoughts.
A binge can be experienced differently by different people. If you think you may be experiencing binge eating, it’s a good idea to consult with a therapist who can provide help for binge eating. Your therapist will conduct a thorough assessment examining all factors that may be contributing to binge eating. You may also be referred to a dietitian not to be put on a meal plan, but to help identify what is needed to restore balance in your relationship with food.
Is Binge Eating an Eating Disorder?
Binge eating is a form of disordered eating and can lead to intense emotional pain, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate the more serious, binge eating disorder, as a “binge” can be defined and experienced differently. The common thread however, is the use of food to meet needs (whether physical, emotional, spiritual or otherwise) and the ensuing pain, guilt, shame, and other uncomfortable feelings.
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder (BED) is by far the most prevalent eating disorder, affecting nearly 3% of the general public and 30% of obese individuals seeking weight loss.
Here are the features of binge eating disorder:
A. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
1. Eating, in a discrete period of time (for example, within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
2. A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (for example, a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).
B. The binge eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
1. Eating much more rapidly than normal
2. Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
3. Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
4. Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating
5. Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterwards
C. Marked distress regarding binge eating
D. The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for three months.
Do I Have an Eating Disorder?
If you responded yes to the questions above then yes, you do have an eating disorder. An eating disorder is a very serious condition not to be minimized. Often, people struggling with binge eating disorder feel they should just be able to “get it” or stop bingeing. Individuals who are overweight are often especially misunderstood or overlooked by our medical care system and given diet and exercise tips. It’s important to understand that binge eating is not your fault nor is it a result of low will-power.
It’s an eating disorder. It’s serious. And binge eating disorder treatment is available. Treatment is not about diet and exercise, but ultimately about discovering what problems the binge eating behavior is attempting to solve, which is often physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual (purpose and connection) in nature. People overcome binge eating disorder. There is hope! Read about our therapy services for binge eating.
Why Do I Binge Eat?
If you’re dealing with binge eating disorder, sometimes the drive to overeat seems to come from nowhere and feels unstoppable. What we now know neurologically is that powerful drive to eat comes from a part of the brain trying desperately to soothe the person in a time of perceived stress or threat. In fact, the drive to binge is actually the brain doing something right! When this happens, the part of the brain used to make rational decisions is, literally, offline.
The trouble is that the real solution is not always to immediately soothe or avoid, but to learn to deal with stress consciously and effectively. We need to actually learn to get out of the part of the brain that wants to check out (the midbrain), and get back to the part that can make healthy, safe adult decisions (the “thinking brain” or the neocortex). Doing this helps the brain get out of “space out” mode, and back into our healthy adult self. Our group program in Houston, Tx helps clients know these different “states of mind”, and be better able to deal with them effectively.
The Binge Eating Scale
The Binge Eating Scale may help you assess the presence of binge eating behaviors which may be indicative of an eating disorder.
Binge Eating Disorder Facts
- Traumatic events can contribute to later development of binge eating disorder
- Binge eating disorder symptoms often appear after a period of dieting
- Many people with binge eating disorder are overweight, but not necessarily so! Don’t discount the seriousness or let others minimize your pain by saying, “you don’t seem to have a weight problem.”
- Binge eating disorder may occur in conduction with other conditions such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD
- Genetics and biochemistry can contribute to binge eating disorder symptoms
- People with binge eating disorder can and do recover!
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